Proficiency and Power with the Pen: Who will be the New Harry Greaves?

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Mrs. Precious Andrews Greaves, widow of the powerful and courageous agitator with the pen, Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr., is this week beginning to organize funeral arrangements for her late husband. Last weekend the government of Liberia (GOL), without precondition, handed over to her the remains of her husband, which she returned to the St. Moses Funeral Parlor.

A little over a week ago the GOL issued the report of the hastily executed “autopsy”, which gave a verdict that nobody believed—that Mr. Greaves died by drowning. The report gave no convincing explanation of the injuries which were visible on Greaves’ body, from head and face down, nor even the rectal injuries which people who saw the body observed.

Precious may not be inclined to ask for a criminal investigation, and may instead settle only for the opportunity to allow her husband to rest in peace. Yet even so, the burning question, what happened to Harry, will linger on for decades to come, and the present government will forever be haunted with suspicion, due not so much to what really happened to this Liberian icon as to why the GOL failed to undertake a comprehensive investigation into the mysterious death of one of its prominent citizens, but rather arranged a hurried “autopsy,” the report of which nobody believes.

Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh, should not forget that this has happened under his watch.

The public, most especially Liberian journalists and those interested in letters, must now confine themselves to the question of who will be the next Harry Greaves—a man who was not only proficient in the speaking and writing of English, but who was also courageous and powerful with the pen.

Who, able to communicate efficiently and effectively in the English language, will have the courage of conviction and be able to use that English to call a spade a spade, regardless of the consequences.

The Daily Observer and Harry Greaves go way back. Over three decades ago in the mid-1980s he was a frequent contributor to our Letters and Features columns. At one point Harry wrote a letter to the editor raising concern about some national issue. The government of the ruling military junta, the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), led by Head of State Samuel K. Doe, promptly put Harry in jail.

A little over a week later we wrote an Editorial entitled, “Let Harry Go.” That afternoon, he was released.

Let us also never forget that there were many agitators both with the tongue and the pen, especially dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them are still around, but guess what: they and some of their close relations are now in power—or close to people in power—enjoying “all the rights,
privileges and opportunities appertaining thereto.” So they have chosen to ignore or treat with benign neglect the glaring corruption taking place before their very eyes—that includes the disappearances, the hasty “autopsies” and the pain and plight of the grief-stricken families.

Sometime ago we published an editorial in which we noted ruefully that most of the people who bitterly complain about corruption in government today are so vocal only because they feel excluded—not “inside” to take and enjoy their part. Some of those who were vocal in the 1960s and 1970s, once they tasted power in the 1980s, became rich or powerful—or both— and, basking in the wealth of the noveau riche (the newly rich), they totally forgot their past crusades.

How then shall we ever make progress in Liberia, when we are so envious, so hypocritical, so selfish, so bereft of patriotism?

During the Tubman regime some people often said in total resignation, “Liberians have the government they deserve.” With envy, hypocrisy, selfishness and total lack of love for one another and for our country—with these negatives entrenched as the principal elements of our national character—shall we ever deserve an honest, upright, progressive and forward-looking government, totally committed to transforming Liberia into a land of development and prosperity for all?

Liberians, we cannot resign. We cannot throw in the towel. We cannot, we must not surrender to evil. We must rise up and fight for a better Liberia, where truth, justice and patriotism will prevail, where all of us will unite in working for the good of our country, for the development and advancement of all of us.

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